Stephan Micus: Bold as Light (2010)
For Bold as LightMicus' nineteenth recording, and the first since 2008's Snowthe eternal and intrepid student introduces a number of instruments, including the raj nplaim, a free-reed bamboo pipe (where sound is produced as air flows past a vibrating reed) from Laos, and the Japanese nohkan flute, also made of bamboo. Micus doesn't, however, just acquire instruments from distant cultures, he has custom versions built, and so a number of modified raj nplaimsof varying lengths and, with additional holes augmenting the native instrument's five to allow for alternate tuningsprovide the freedom to create virtual choirs, with six of them used on the meditative opening, "Rain," and eight on his haunting "The Child," where Micus' folkloric lyricism is given a gentle pulse through use of the sinding, a West African harp.
What's always been one of Micus' most compelling qualities is that, despite studying music from various cultures, when it comes to his own, the borders are entirely dissolved; the instruments used in pursuit of a kind of music freed frombut nevertheless all-inclusive ofthe various places from which it comes. And for those who find it all too easy to assign labels like "new age" to Micus, such reductionist categorizing only diminishes the deeper meaning of his music.
This is music that feels as solitary as the process in which it's madeMicus alone in his MCM Studio, gradually shaping pieces over the course of months or, sometimes, yearsspeaking deeply of spirituality, meditation and the pursuit of a calm, personally fulfilling life. But equallyand, especially here, because of the album's general lack of percussion or rhythm-capable instrumentsBold as Light's overarching tranquility can, for those engaged in the hustle and bustle of modern life, become a welcoming, fifty-minute hiatus from reality, and a chance to consider that it truly needn't be that way.
Track Listing: Rain; Spring Dance; Flying Swans; Wide River; Autumn Dance; Golden Ginkgo Tree; The Shrine; Winter Dance; The Child; Seven Roses.
Personnel: Stephan Micus: raj nplaim (1, 4, 7, 9, 10), bass zither (2, 8), chord zither (2, 8), Bavarian zither (2, 8), nohkan (2, 5, 8), sho (3, 10), voice (3, 7, 10), kalimba (6), shakuhachi (6), sinding (9).
Record Label: ECM Records